Latest Kent Avenue Bike Lane Complaint: Truck Traffic

kent_ave_two_way.jpgOne section of the Kent Avenue two-way bike path has been painted. Two more will follow. Image: NYCDOT [PDF].

We've got another dispatch from the ongoing bike lane drama that is Kent Avenue. At Wednesday night's information session hosted by Brooklyn CB1, the DOT team gave a short presentation [PDF] outlining their plan to address truck traffic changes caused by converting Kent to one-way flow. Then the public was invited to comment.

north_wmsburg.jpgTruck routes in North Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
According to sources who attended the meeting, most of the 60 or so people who showed up were worried that the new pattern will send more trucks down their streets, especially North 11th Street -- an existing truck route -- and Wythe Street, which runs parallel to Kent and is not a truck route. While some stretches of the discussion were civil, a few opponents were not above browbeating tactics, shouting down testimony from bike lane supporters, we're told.

A couple of things to keep in mind. The traffic changes are happening in three phases. So far only the first has been completed. Once the whole thing is finished and truckers have had some time to learn the new traffic patterns, the straightest shot heading south goes nowhere near Wythe or North 11th. DOT intends to promote this route, which takes trucks down McGuinness Boulevard instead, and work with the local police precincts to keep truckers off streets where they're not supposed to drive.

As for the notion that the project makes streets less safe (some opponents went so far as to say the new traffic patterns will endanger children), it's hard to take seriously. This is not just a one-way conversion: The crossing distances will be shorter and the roadway narrower on Kent Avenue, which motorists used to treat as a little stretch of autobahn in Brooklyn. Now that traffic will be calmer.

The bike lane was always intended to be a precursor to the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. The new design now occupies the greenway footprint, so opposing the bike lane is tantamount to opposing the greenway. An area undergoing as much residential development as North Brooklyn sorely needs this new space for pedestrians and cyclists. Walking to the waterfront will feel much safer and more appealing, and biking to the Williamsburg Bridge won't just be limited to a few brave souls. CB1 embraced those improvements when it approved the greenway plan last April [PDF]; the same benefits should feel much more tangible once the Kent Avenue bike lane is completed next month.